Coat of Many Feathers.
Coat of Many Feathers

Coat of Many Feathers

Field review by the editors.

Stuttgart, Arkansas

A lot of rice is grown around Stuttgart, making it popular with hungry ducks and duck hunters.

Ruby Abel earned a living from those ducks. She was a professional "duck dresser" -- someone who plucked and gutted dead ducks -- and was also the owner of the local Sportsman's Restaurant, and a two-time winner of Stuttgart's annual Women's World's Championship Duck Calling Contest.

"She called ducks, she hunted ducks, she cleaned ducks, she cooked ducks," said Gena Seidenschwarz, director of the Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie.

In the mid-1960s Ruby did something else with ducks. "She had all these mallard drake heads and they were really pretty and they were just being discarded," said Gena. "She decided this was being very wasteful."

Ruby took 450 duck heads, yanked off all of their iridescent green feathers, and sewed them into a coat -- later called the Coat of Many Feathers after the Old Testament "Coat of Many Colors." It took her 600 hours. A news story at the time showed the coat being modeled by "Queen Mallard of 1966," and estimated its worth at $20,000.

1967 photo: Ruby Abel blows a duck call while wearing her famous coat.
1967 photo: Ruby Abel blows a duck call while wearing her famous coat.

"She wore it on occasion," said Gena, most memorably to New York City, where she stumped the panel on the TV quiz show I've Got a Secret (It was the duck coat). Ruby's masterpiece mostly stayed on display in Ruby's restaurant in Stuttgart, which, according to Gena, is still open and has "the best hamburger in the county."

When Ruby died in 1985 she willed the coat to Stuttgart's museum, where it's displayed in a glass case along with Ruby's duck feather hat, another of her creations.

Coat of Many Feathers

Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie

Address:
921 E. 4th St., Stuttgart, AR
Directions:
Museum of the Arkansas Grand Prairie. East edge of town. From US Hwy 165/S. Park Ave. turn west onto E. 4th St (Look for the windmill). You'll see the museum on the right.
Hours:
Tu-F 8-4, Sa 10-4 (Call to verify)
Phone:
870-673-7001
Admission:
Free, donations welcome.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

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November 20, 2017

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